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Shares of Apple today briefly topped the $700 mark, reaching yet another milestone that would have seemed impossible a decade ago. The stock has since fallen back to around $698 per share. It now has a market value of $654 billion, easily making it the most valuable company in the world.

Microsoft, by comparison, is now valued at $261 billion. And, as you can see in the stock chart below, Microsoft’s stock has been relatively flat over the past decade.

Apple’s $700 per share milestone comes as it prepares to begin selling the iPhone 5 this Friday. Pre-orders of the device, which we reported on yesterday, surpassed more than two million in the first 24 hours. That was double the amount of pre-orders for the iPhone 4S.

UPDATE: As of 1:04 p.m., Apple’s shares had topped $700 again, trading at $701.91. Click on the stock chart below for real-time updates.

Apple’s stock, in blue, versus Microsoft’s stock, in red, over the past decade.
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